How the Mets gave Yo La Tengo their name

Pax Arcana

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Seriously. Is it baseball season yet?

The sport of baseball has overlapped with the arts more than any other American pastime. There exists a body of great baseball literature, for example, and throughout history even a number of baseball-related songs have made their way into our shared cultural experience.

No other sport really comes close in this regard (though boxing has inspired a number of great writers and great films).

So it’s not really much of a surprise that my favorite baseball team, the New York Mets, would intersect on some plane with one of my favorite bands, Brooklyn-based Yo La Tengo. In this video on the band’s site, Ira Kaplan shares the story behind the band’s name by interviewing Mets great Ed Kranepool.

Here’s the story in a peanut shell:

Kranepool was on the Mets during their inaugural 1962 season, in which they were one of the worst teams in the history of baseball. Centerfielder Richie Ashburn (a future Hall of Famer) and shortstop Elio Chacon had difficulty communicating on several shallow pop-ups because Chacon spoke almost no English. Another player suggested Ashburn learn the phrase “Yo la tengo!” which translates to “I got it!” in Spanish, to avoid collisions. Soon after, a pop-up to shallow left brought Ashburn screaming in toward the infield, shouting “Yo la tengo! Yo la tengo!” Chacon backed off, but Ashburn crashed hard into leftfielder Frank Thomas, who did not speak Spanish and had no idea what Ashburn was yelling about.

In college we had a Japanese guy who didn’t speak much English, either. Instead of learning the Japanese for “I got it!” though, we just let him get everything. Man, that kid worked hard for his roster spot.

Kaplan’s Korner [Yo La Tengo Official Web site]

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5 Comments

Filed under baseball, music

5 responses to “How the Mets gave Yo La Tengo their name

  1. Bertsch

    Ira is one captivating interviewer.
    I love how YLT is never ashamed to show their love of baseball….something you’d think many art-rockers would turn a hipster nose away from…“art rules, sports drool!”

    Pax – if you haven’t yet seen it, check out the flick “Game Six”. Although the film itself is weak, it’s still fun to experience YLT tunes as the soundtrack for a story based around said game of the ’86 series.

  2. Hey Bertsch. Ira did kind of remind me of a hipster version of Chris Farley in that interview. How could a dude be THAT uncomfortable in front of a camera when he’s only got one question to ask? Regardless, I love YLT. And I’ll definitely look around for “Game Six.” Thanks for the tip.

  3. Pingback: The Story of Yo La Tengo « Yo La Tengo

  4. Pingback: Hipper than Werth « de Jesus was a Capricorn

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